Sandiganbayan affirms hold order on Iranian investor

MANILA, Philippines —  The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its decision barring an Iranian investor facing criminal cases from leaving the country despite his claim of a medical emergency.

In a three-page resolution dated January 30, released to the media Thursday, the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division denied the motion for reconsideration of Iranian investor Foad Akhavan for lack of merit.

The Sixth Division said Akhavan failed to present any new arguments in his motion for reconsideration that would warrant the reversal of court’s November 29, 2016 ruling denying his motion for leave to travel abroad.

“At the outset, it should be pointed out that the above issue raised/presented by the accused-movant …are but a rehash/repetition of the same issues and arguments …in his previous motions to travel abroad which the Court had already judiciously considered and resolved. There being no new issues raised in his motion, the Court finds no cogent reason to disturb its findings and conclusions,” the court said.

The ruling was penned by Division chairman Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada. Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Karl Miranda concurred.

Akhavan is facing graft and malversation cases before the Sixth Division as co-accused of former Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Ocampos.

The cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous construction and operation of the Misamis Oriental Aquamarine Park (MOAP).

Based on the information of the cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in March 2015, Akhavan was granted the contract to build the MOAP in 2005 under a build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) scheme. The ombudsman said the contract was granted to the Iranian national despite having no eligibility to operate an aquamarine park in the Philippines.

The ombudsman further said Ocampos also failed to collect from Akhavan the provincial government’s 30 percent income share from MOAP’s operation. Graft investigators further found out that the employees of MOAP were allegedly paid a total of P559,925 from the provincial government’s coffers.

In his motion to travel, Akhavan said he needs to undergo medical checkup and therapy after he had recently undergone coronary angioplasty. Akhavan said he prefers that the checkup and therapy be performed by his physician of choice abroad.

Akhavan said being a foreign national is not a valid ground for the court to deny his request as the assumption that he will no longer come back “is at best speculative”.

The court, however, dismissed Akhavan’s arguments.

The Sixth Division said that other than his investments in the Philippines, “Akhavan has not shown anything that would guarantee his return”.

“Furthermore, accused Akhavan has not shown any medical record showing that medical check-up and therapy abroad is necessary…Despite the recommendation of the attending physician that the medical evaluation be made by the physician who performed the coronary angioplasty, there is no showing that the procedure cannot be done in the Philippines,” the court added quoting its previous ruling.

Lastly, the Sixth Division said Akhavan cannot cite the court’s previous rulings allowing other accused to travel abroad. The court said that unlike him, these accused are permanent residents/citizens of the Philippines.

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